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'The very age and body of the time': Shakespeare's world
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'The very age and body of the time': Shakespeare's world

Droeshout’s portrait of William ShakespeareDroeshuot’s portrait of William ShakespeareHe was not of an age, but for all time!

So wrote Ben Jonson in the eulogy to his friend and fellow dramatist William Shakespeare that appears in the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623.

Shakespeare’s writings have indeed proved the truth of Jonson’s words, embodying eternal truths through matchless language, but Shakespeare himself was also of course very much a man of his time, and his works reflect, as well as transcend, the preoccupations and tendencies of the age in which he lived.

In this 2016 exhibition, conceived to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and now available to view online here, we explore the world in which Shakespeare lived and worked. We feature the types of implements he would have used to write his plays and poems and look at the workings of the London book trade in his day. We examine the political and religious background of Elizabethan and Jacobean England and the literary sources upon which Shakespeare drew.

Items featured include a copy of Julius Caesar from the Second Folio edition, a copy of the first edition of Ben Jonson’s works, published in the year of Shakespeare’s death, and a copy of Daemonologie, James I’s treatise on witchcraft.

In the final part of the exhibition we explore King’s College London’s rich tradition of Shakespearean scholarship.

We would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their kind assistance in the preparation of this exhibition: Alan Cole, Laura Douglas, Lambeth Palace Library, Gordon McMullan and the Museum of Writing.

Unless otherwise stated, all exhibits are from the Foyle Special Collections Library, King’s College London.

Exhibition curators: Katie Sambrook and John Wilby

Please note: this exhibition originally ran from 16 June to 24 September 2016 in the Weston Room of the Maughan Library, King’s College London and is now available to view as an online exhibition only.

In this exhibition

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